Wentworth wizard Els wins seventh Match Play title

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VIRGINIA WATER, England, Oct 14 (Reuters) Ernie Els took his record tally of World Match Play titles to seven with a 6 and 4 drubbing of Argentina's Angel Cabrera in today's final at Wentworth.

The South African received the richest first prize in golf, 2.04 million dollars, an expensive early gift ahead of his 38th birthday on Wednesday.

''I wouldn't have thought in my wildest dreams I could win this tournament seven times,'' Els told the BBC. ''It is unbelievable.

''I need to play more golf like this. I think I need to move Wentworth around the world with me.'' Els, without a tournament win since the South African Open in December, never trailed in the 36-hole match after Cabrera bogeyed the par-four first when he failed to reach the green in two on another calm, sunny day on the West Course in Surrey.

He then piled on the agony for the US Open champion, hitting four birdies in seven holes to complete an outward 31, four under.

Els rammed in a 32-foot putt at the third before pitching to three feet at the fourth. He then converted a seven-foot chance at the seventh and rolled in a 30-footer from the fringe of the ninth green to go three up.

DAZZLING APPROACH The smooth-swinging South African let Cabrera back into the match when he struck his recovery shot into a ditch at the 12th after hooking his drive into the trees.

Els responded in fine style by sinking putts of 35 and 15 feet for consecutive birdies at the 14th and 15th.

Els hooked another drive to lose the 17th to Cabrera's par-five before restoring his three-hole advantage with a birdie four at the long 18th after the Argentine needed four to find the green.

Cabrera threatened a comeback after three dazzling approach shots set up simple birdie opportunities at the fourth, fifth and sixth in the afternoon round.

Els, displaying the touch of a wizard with his putter, replied with a couple of birdies of his own at the fourth and fifth.

The Wentworth resident, who masterminded the recent changes to the West Course, then gave Cabrera a mountain to climb by sliding another birdie putt into the cup from 15 feet at the 10th.

Els's 13th birdie of the day at the 14th hole secured victory, adding to his previous wins here in 2004, 2003 2002, 1996, 1995 and 1994.

It also lifted him one place to fourth in the world rankings and top of this season's European order of merit with three events remaining.

''This is my home course and it has been a big week,'' said Els. ''I wasn't at my best against Henrik (Stenson) yesterday and my putting saved me.

''For some reason today it was all there. I didn't miss many shots and I know the greens so well.'' Cabrera picked up a sizeable consolation prize of 400,000 pounds.

''I played my best today but it wasn't enough because Ernie played very well,'' said Cabrera. ''He is the king of Wentworth.'' REUTERS BJR RAI2114

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